Suu Kyi Graces Ethnic Parties’ Union Day Celebration
12 February 2012: Celebrating the 65th anniversary of Union Day in Rangoon, the Nationalities Brotherhood Forum, a five-party ethnic alliance today said they are dismayed by the continuing lack of equality and ethnic rights in the Union of Burma.
“We are saddened by the continuing lack of equality and national democratic rights for the ethnic nationalities, despite the fact that Independence was collectively achieved for the Union of Burma through the spirit of Panglong,” reads the official statement released for the occasion.
Held at M3 Hall in Maynigone Township, the ceremony was attended by over 300 guests, including the National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi as the most prominent guest. In a short speech, Suu Kyi stressed the importance of the Burmans and non-Burman ethnic nationalities working together for the sake of the Union.
This was the first time the Nobel Laureate has met with the ethnic leaders since her release from house arrest in November 2010.
The four hour-long ceremony also included cultural dance performances by various ethnic groups.
The Union Day has been celebrated as an official holiday in Burma since the creation of the Union of Burma as an independent state in 1948. It marks the historic signing of the Panglong Agreement between the ethnic nationalities from Shan, Kachin and Chin, and the Burmese delegation led by General Aung San.
During the last six decades, the celebration of Union Day, however, has been held largely without any historical significance or the original spirit with which the Panglong Agreement was signed.
A background paper to the celebration says, “The ethnic nationalities of the Union Burma can work to strengthen the spirit of Panglong Agreement and its essence through education and awareness raising program in order to undo the deeply-entrenched misconception about the history of the founding of the Union of Burma. The celebration of the Union Day provides a perfect opportunity to start this important process.”
NBF is made up of five ethnic parties from Chin, Karen, Mon, Rakhine and Shan parties, which contested in the 2010 elections and won a number of seats across the three tiers of Parliament.